Watson: “I’m gonna lay up and go for bronze”

If it comes down to a choice between going for broke and playing for gold or playing it safe and guaranteeing himself a silver or bronze medal, Bubba Watson is leaning towards the latter.

“It depends,” Watson admitted Tuesday in Rio, as the U.S. men’s Olympic golf team met the media in advance of Thursday’s first round. 

In certain cases, finishing second or third at an important event – like a major championship – can bolster a golfer’s long-term prospects. High finishes in major championships can jumpstart fledging careers and provide increased opportunities for players with limited tour status.

That said, for many of the game’s biggest names, players who need neither the opportunity nor the money, second place typically proves more painful than fruitful. Ask Phil Mickelson how it feels to have a record six runner-ups at the U.S. Open. Ask Sergio Garcia what it’s like to have four major seconds and zero major wins.

But this week Rio, second or third place suddenly means a silver or bronze medal. And so the question was posed to the U.S. team Thursday: Will your mentality be different, since walking away with a bronze medal means a lot more than your typical third-place finish?

“I speak for myself, but I feel like I speak for the rest of the guys that if there’s a chance at winning the golf tournament or taking a risk possibly down the stretch to win gold, I don’t think we’re going to play it safe by any means,” Rickie Fowler answered.

That’s when Watson, a two-time Masters champion and nine-time PGA Tour winner, interjected.

“I’m gonna lay up and go for bronze,” he said, prompting laughter in the room. “What? Why is everybody laughing?”

A reporter immediately followed up, asking if Watson was serious. 

“I am actually serious,” he said. “But, um, no, it’d be better to have bronze than nothing. But, um, no, it’s situational, you know what I’m saying? … Obviously, it’s different. There’s no money changing hands. It’s all about getting medals and competing to have that medal around your neck and being on the podium. So, yeah, it’s all situational. It just depends on where you are, what kind of lie you have and what it is at that time.

“But, obviously, you’re going to be looking. If you’re in third place, you’re going to try to make sure you don’t mess up and go to fourth real fast.”

Watson will begin his quest for a medal at 8:14 a.m. ET on Thursday, when he tees off with Germany’s Martin Kaymer and India’s Anirban Lahiri.